Contributed by: Thulsa ()

"The first was a diminutive, effeminate little man in fantastic jeweled robes, with amber skin, fleshy arms covered with glittering rings, and the cold, bright, soulless eyes of a snake." -- L. Sprague de Camp: "The Witch of the Mists"

Khitan Wizard

Khitai is the mysterious land of the East, home of powerful sorceries and ancient mysteries. Khitai is nearly legendary to the average Hyborian, although the more easterly peoples (such as the Turanians and Vendhyans) maintain considerable commerce with the kingdoms of Khitai.

Khitai's borders are ill-defined, as no other "kingdom" lies near it. The Khitans themselves mark their western boundary at the Great Wall and the mountains upon which it is built. This mountain range runs north to the trackless, icy wastes, and south to the Southern Sea.

Over the centuries, the peoples of Khitai have merged into a homogeneous race: slender, of medium height, with parchment-yellow skin, slanted eyes, sharp features, high foreheads, and oval faces. Some regional variation exists (Southerners, for example, tend to be shorter and thicker about the waist), but the distinctions are almost invisible to Westerners. (They are very visible to the Khitans.)

Khitan behavior is wrapped in complex ceremonies. Each member of Khitan society has a place in the structure and codes of behavior which must be followed. These codes do not prevent personal initiative. The Khitans believe that those who best obey the codes will be rewarded by the gods. From this, they deduce that "the winner was right," and this success-oriented approach gives them a penchant for treachery and double-dealing which would cause a Hyborian noble to blanch.

One confusing aspect of these codes is the extreme politeness of the Khitan demeanor. Most Western traders find this unctuousness irritating, if harmless; successful traders recognize the traps concealed in this veneer of respect and watch their backs.

Khitan law flows from the overlord of the city-state. The overlord makes the laws and often personally judges major criminal cases, although most overlords appoint jurists to try and punish criminals. Fines are common, although for serious crimes or those who upset the status quo, mutilation and death are the usual punishments.

Unlike the Hyborian lands, where judges are often subject to financial influence, it is very difficult to bribe a judge in Khitai. On the other hand, a judge is often subject to the political concerns of his clan or faction, and may well ignore the law and the truth to accomplish some "higher" political purpose.

Just as Stygia has its Black Ring, and Hyperborea its White Hand, the sorcerers of Khitai are bound into a brotherhood of power: the Scarlet Circle. The Circle, like its counterparts in the West, is a hierarchy of dominance. Each wizard is served by those weaker, and in turn serves those more powerful in the sorcerous arts. At the pinnacle of this pyramid stands the sorcerer Yah Chieng, ruler of the city-state of Paikang, whose demons and sorceries are feared by all the East.